A few weeks ago the students in my Telenovelas class turned in one of their assignments: to write an introspective essay about any (or several) of the aspects of the production of Venezuelan telenovelas that we have studied in class. In other words, I wanted them to reflect on telenovela production from a very personal perspective.
I have enjoyed going behind the scenes of Venezuelan production as it has given me immense insight into the world of telenovela creation. Each aspect of production holds its appropriate place in the successful execution of the show. I realize that without the careful attention to detail and collaboration of each group, the telenovela would suffer. Each member of production, from the writer to the actors to the production assistants, is essential in the success of the telenovela (Jackie).
When you view an episode of a telenovela, you are witnessing a small miracle. Before taking this class, I never could have fathomed the complexity and rapidity of a single episode’s production (Amanda).
I am so impressed with everyone in this process’ ability to work under pressure, especially with the actors being able to memorize their lines in only a few hours. I loved hearing the stories about the actors hiding their scripts seconds before “Cinco y acción!”. I was astonished to hear how close some novelas are written to their actual air time. I would not be able to work under that kind of stress! (Alli)
Producers are faced with a difficult task that has potential to create tensions with actors as well. They must know where to draw the line between being a compassionate leader and a strong leader. Being a strong leader without any compassion can lead to a power hungry producer who misplaces their priorities and leading skills. However, being overly compassionate can result in the individual being walked all over and underproductive (Megan).
I found it very interesting to learn about the process by which actors are notified of their taping schedule because scenes are so rarely taped in their final order. As a consumer and someone who sees a telenovela only in its final form with scenes placed in their correct order, it was difficult for me to imagine taping them out of order for the sake of convenience. Learning about the roles of the script as well as the importance of the “pauta” also really amazed me. I had no idea that the sheer taping of a show could be so complicated. Prior to this class, I thought that most programs were taped in order on a set, which seemed much easier than the actual process of bringing certain actors together at very specific times to tape an array of varying scenes, all with the same props, make-up and accessories to ensure that the coinciding scenes are cohesive. To be honest, I felt very overwhelmed when learning about all of the necessary actions that are taken to make sure that each scene comes together as it is mapped out by the writing team. (Jessica)
*The writers' limitations regarding the final product:
I understand now that the director’s interpretation is incredibly important. He, or she, has, in some instances, more power than the writer because if he interprets one scene differently than the writer, the whole feeling of the episode could change. (Alli)
There are often times discrepancies in how a character was written to be portrayed and how a character is played out on screen. The ideas held by the writer do not always match up with the actor’s ideas or style of acting. At times ideas can be tossed around without causing tension, but sometimes a party may become defensive about suggestions or criticism (Megan).
From the perspective of the writer, does an understanding of the process trump what he or she wants? Where do you draw the line between the product and the art form? I think it is sad that writers have to tip-toe around what network executives and government regulations want. But I guess that is just one of the prices that a television writer must pay. Making a telenovela requires the work and vision of many people, so it is impossible for the original idea to be untainted. But I think that the writers should try to be as involved as possible in the production process to ensure that their stories and ideas are not watered down and to maintain the integrity of their original ideas. (Tia)
I should mention also that the students' essays touched on other topics such as the importance of music in a telenovela, the production of special effects within a low budget and the importance given to actoral credits in a telenovela. Their writings reflected what I've learned by now: what happens behind the scenes is as interesting and fascinating as what we see happening on the television screen.
(Photos taken during the production of telenovela Ciudad Bendita)